How to Form & Use Basic Spanish Sentences in the Present

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

When we speak or write in Spanish, we often have to use the present tense. This lesson gives you an overview of the uses of present tense and how to form simple sentences by following a very easy formula.

Present Tense?

In learning Spanish, we hear the present a lot. Like it that very sentence, the word 'hear' is in the present tense. When do we use the present tense? This tense is for something happening right now or for something that is true currently. There are three basic types of sentences used in this tense:

  • To describe ourselves or other subjects or things. For example: Patricia es alta (Patricia is tall).
  • To refer to actions we do on a regular basis or that we never do. For instance: Yo como vegetales todos los días (I eat vegetables every day.)
  • To refer to facts: La paella es un plato tradicional de España (The paella is a traditional dish from Spain.)

Translation: Joshua and Elena practice Spanish sometimes.

First, let's review how to form the present tense of regular verbs in Spanish.

Chart Conjugation for the Present Tense

As you may know, verbs in Spanish can end in '-ar', '-er, or '-ir'. We can quickly review the conjugation through an easy chart, just remember that you always have to drop the ending '-ar, -er, -ir' of verbs and then add the endings.

First, let's review the endings for the subject pronouns yo (I), (you, informal/singular), and él, ella, usted (he/she/you formal/singular).

Present Tense Singular Subjects

Verb Example Conjugation for yo Conjugation for Conjugation for él, ella, usted
estudiar (to study) yo estudio tú estudias ella estudia
aprender (to learn) yo aprendo tú aprendes usted aprende
escribir (to live) yo escribo tú escribes él escribe

Now, let's learn the endings for the plural subjects in this order: nosotros/nosotras (we, masculine and feminine), vosotros/vosotras (you, informal/plural masculine and feminine), ellos/ellas, ustedes (they masc/fem, you formal/plural).

Present Tense Plural Subjects

Verb Example Conjugation for yo Conjugation for Conjugation for él, ella, usted
estudiar (to study) nosotros/as estudiamos vosotros estudiáis ellos estudian
aprender (to learn) nosotros/as aprendemos vosotros aprendéis ellas aprenden
escribir (to live) nosotros/as escribimos vosotros escribís ellos escriben

In Spanish, you can drop the yo because when you say estudio, it is clear the subject is yo. Similarly, if it is clear who the subject is, you can drop the other subjects. Now, let's look at the basic structure of simple sentences in the present tense.

Simple Sentences in the Present Tense.

The pattern of a simple sentence in the present tense has three components: a subject (person, thing, animal), a verb in the present tense, and a complement or predicate.

Let's apply this pattern to a few examples:

  • Mi mejor amigo es vegetariano. (My best friend is a vegetarian.)
  • Mi novio y yo estudiamos francés dos veces por semana. (My boyfriend and I study French twice a week.)
  • Sandra lava los platos. (Sandra washes the dishes.)

Can you tell who the subject is in each sentence? What about the verb in the present tense? Finally, what are the predicates?

The subjects are Mi mejor amigo, Mi novio y yo, and Sandra. The respective verbs are es, estudiamos, lava. Finally, the predicates are vegetariano, francés dos veces por semana, and los platos.

Now, you can quickly turn these affirmative sentences into negative ones by simply adding no in front of the verb. So, to say 'Sandra doesn't wash the dishes' you add no and you have Sandra no lava los platos.

Now that you know the pattern to follow for simple sentences in the present tense, let's review some words that typically accompany this tense.

Adverbs of Frequency for the Present Tense

We have a few adverbs of frequency that typically accompany the present tense. Here is a basic list for you.

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